Cherry Creek advances to Final Four

Bruins face Lakewood in semifinals of girls basketball tourney

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Cherry Creek has been waiting most of the girls basketball season for Sydney Mech to uncover her talent.

Mech, a 6-foot-1 junior, was an all-Centennial League selection last season, but missed the Bruins' first 14 games and then was eased back into action after recovering from knee surgery.

She scored a game-high 27 points as 12th-seeded Cherry Creek stunned No. 5 seed Ralston Valley, 56-39, in a Class 5A state playoff quarterfinal game on March 3 at the Denver Coliseum.

The victory moved the Bruins (19-7) into an 8:30 p.m. semifinal game against ninth-seeded Lakewood (21-5) on March 9 at the Coliseum.

Creek, which beat Mountain Vista and Fruita Monument in its first two playoff contests, never trailed in the Great 8 game, shot 50 percent from the field and avenged two regular season losses to the Mustangs.

“We played really well,” Bruins coach Chris Cureen said. “We played as a team. We moved the ball a lot better. Everybody got involved and Sydney being back at 100 percent is huge for us.

“In the Fruita game, she finally looked like Syd again (16 points). To come off an injury, players are healthy but are still kind of tentative. Finally when we went out to Fruita, Syd looked like Syd. Offensively, she is a big player for us.”

Mech, who is averaging eight points in 12 games this season, said the Ralston Valley game was her best since her return.

“I just had confidence,” she said. “We got the lead and that helped keep them out of the game.”

Creek will be making its second Final Four appearance in three seasons after getting past the Ralston Valley roadblock.

“The first game against Ralston Valley, we didn't have a lot of our key players,” said freshman point guard Jana Van Gytenbeek. “Jaela (Richarson) was out, Syd was out, so we weren't developed as a team that had experience together.

“In the second game, we let them shoot the threes and they're great shooters and we lost that game in the second quarter. This game we knew we had to stop the threes, play as a team and get the ball moving, and then if everybody touches it and everybody scores, then we would win. Syd just had to get back into the swing of things. That's how she plays.”

Van Gytenbeek, in an anticipated one-on-one match up against Ralston Valley senior guard Ashley Van Sickle, finished with eight points and five assists. Ashley Van Sickle had nine points but was 3-for-18 shooting for the Mustangs, which shot 26.9 percent from the field.

“Jana played great defense against Van Sickle,” Cureen said. “That was such a good matchup. That's definitely two of the top five point guards in the state. So they are going to kind of cancel each other out.”

Lauren McMillen, a 6-1 senior, had a game-high 15 rebounds for Cherry Creek, which will enter the semifinals without 6-2 senior Laura Pranger, who broke her hand early in the game against Mountain Vista.

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